Content and organizational differences between autobiographical and semantic memories

Conway, Martin (1984). Content and organizational differences between autobiographical and semantic memories. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000de41

Abstract

This thesis investigated differences between semantic and autobiographical memories of the same item.

In a review of the problem area [Part 1] it was shown that the semantic/episodic distinction, SED, [Tulving 1972, 1983] had not been unequivocally supported by research and was open to a number of theoretical criticisms. A revised version of SED focusing on content and organizational differences [as opposed to process differences between the two classes of memory was shown to be less vunerable to theoretical criticism, to accomodate past findings more fully, and to suggest ways in which the two distinguished. classes of memory might be The revised version of SED more markedly emphasised the autobiographical content of episodic memories and suggested ways in which the two classes of memory may be related.

A series of experiments are reported (Part 2] which investigated the hypotheses that autobiographical and semantic memories of the same items differed in terms of the information that they represented, were differently organized, and were indirectly connected. A number of experimental techniques were employed including free descriptions, priming, property verification, and cued recall of images drawn from either semantic or autobiographical memories. Overall the findings lent strong support to these hypotheses.

It is concluded [Part 3] that autobiographical and semantic memories of the same items differ in terms of the information which they represent and in their forms of organization version of SED in memory. These findings validated the revised which emphasised representational differences such as content and organization rather than process differences and also supported the proposal that that the two classes of memory were represented in a unitary memory store rather than in functionally separate memory stores. The implications of the findings for the study of autobiographical memory, semantic memory, categorization, and imagery are discussed.

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